by Josh King, General Counsel, RealSelf
Every day brings new measures to push back on the COVID-19 pandemic. What started with social distancing is changing in many places to public health lockdowns of non-critical facilities.
These are unsettling times, and there are no easy answers. But I wanted to share a few thoughts, based on my 25-plus years of experience in helping guide businesses through times good and bad, on ways to keep your business afloat, resilient, and ready to get back after it when things return to normal.
The folks who keep your practice running are your most valuable assets. But you’ve got to be practical and focus on the path that gets you through. Be open and transparent about the challenges: no one should be surprised that all options must be on the table.
Depending on the size and composition of your staff—and the laws available in your state—these options may include general layoffs, temporary layoffs (where you may still pay healthcare benefits), pay cuts, and unpaid leave. Some employees may welcome unpaid time off in order to preserve their health benefits and future role. Others may prefer to be laid off to become more immediately eligible for unemployment benefits or to take another job. Consider everything.
Tax Credits for Sick Leave Available
Congress just enacted the “Families First” COVID-19 response law, which goes into effect on April 3. This law requires that employers offer sick leave and time off for child care, but provides tax credits to help cover this expense.
There are limits: sick leave is capped at $511 per day for a max of 10 days, and child care at $200 per day for a max of 10 weeks. However, these may be benefits you were already planning to offer, and the fact that the tax credit is paid quarterly, via the payroll tax system, may offer some immediate help with cash flow. More information is available here.
Look at Big Expenses
Besides your people, other big categories of expense likely include lease and capital equipment payments. Do not delay in addressing these. Landlords and lenders would much rather have deferrals and delays than see tenants and borrowers go out of business.
If you decide to stop paying on these items, be sure to communicate openly and up-front with your landlord or lenders. They will typically be far more understanding if you keep them in the loop and express your intent to make things right once business returns.
Don’t Neglect Patient Intake
Having your practice temporarily closed may seem grim, but never forget that we will get through this, and there will be a surge of demand on the other side. Plus, there are lots of people at home right now with time on their hands. Be sure to keep lines of communication open, respond to inquiries, use video consults, schedule future appointments—whatever it takes to stay in position to recover quickly once your door can open again.
Related: Visit RealSelf University for a multi-part education module, Virtual Appointments: We’re Not Closed!
More Relief is Available and Will be Coming
In the days and weeks to come, expect significant new stimulus programs to emerge at both the state and federal level. Many states have already made small business loans of up to $2 million available for those impacted by the COVID shutdown. Visit the SBA website for more information and to apply.
There are also a growing number of state, city, and county programs that are available. And there are a number of other proposals under consideration—including a massive federal stimulus package—that will provide options for additional relief. I will post updates as major new programs are enacted.
The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
About the author
Josh King is the General Counsel for RealSelf, the web’s leading resource for consumers researching aesthetic procedures. Prior to joining RealSelf, he spent over a decade as Chief Legal Officer at Avvo, helping that consumer online legal resource grow from tiny startup to industry leader. Josh regularly speaks and writes on issues relating to digital media, communications, and professional ethics. He’s also been known to go on about bike commuting, politics, bourbon, and traveling. Read more of Josh’s thoughts on social media and the regulation of professional speech at his aptly titled blog, “Socially Awkward”.
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